You are currently browsing all posts tagged with 'skills'.
Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 entries.

Dressing Oneself

  • Posted on March 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Once the boys became toddlers, getting them dressed became a wrestling match. Pin and pull. One pant leg on. Pin and pull. Second pant leg on. If I was lucky, the first pant leg had stayed on. If not, then the child had pushed it off again in the struggle. Socks were the worst, however, with the occasional kick to the face. The biggest trouble with shirts was the hassle of getting the front of the shirt aligned with the front of the child. Then, the biggest difficulty was ensuring the child stayed dressed. Of all three, Ben was the most resistant to clothing and he’s now the only holdout. Ben will wear clothes out of the house, even at school now, but won’t wear them (for long) at home.

I once despaired of teaching the boys to dress themselves in a reasonably timely fashion. They’ve been able to do it for years. It’s like undressing, simply in reverse. But it could literally take them hours to dress themselves. Now, Willy does it in a flash. Alex will only dawdle through it for about ten minutes. Ben will get dressed pretty quickly—if he’s willing to dress himself at all, which is still hit or miss.

So, once again, it gets better. Developing skills helps, of course, but mostly it’s a matter of time. They come around, more or less. Then, of course, there’s Ben who will—as soon as he gets home—strip off his coat, his boots, his snowpants, his socks, his pants, his shirt, and throw them in a pile that is more or less “away.” The only deviation to this routine is the outer garments he’s wearing. Luckily, the pull-up usually stays on.

Independence Can Help

  • Posted on February 7, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Results from a recent study reveal a not-so-surprising conclusion with two different primary points:

For adults with autism, having the chance to work somewhat independently may lead to a reduction in symptoms of the disorder, a new study suggests.

The research puts new emphasis on the potential for adults with autism to develop and improve over their lifetimes, said study author Julie Lounds Taylor, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville. (emphasis added)

Basically, researchers are discovering that autism symptoms are not static, even long after the supposed recovery period touted by many children’s therapy promoters. Adults with autism can make substantial, life-changing gains when given the chance. Even less surprisingly, that chance comes in part by the growth of independence, when that growing independence is properly supported and when the source of that independence involves “the right fit between a person’s abilities and interests and a specific job.”

I knew that! I live that!

Yes, yes, I know research is an important aspect of proving that to the world. But, as the parent of three children with autism, I know that their growth and development isn’t over just because they’ve outgrown the “recovery phase” that was drilled into my head when they were young. I also know that the way to further their abilities is to give the opportunities to pursue their interests, with support. So, I’m glad the researchers are looking and finding what I and many other autism parents have learned by living.

Success Can Be Its Own Adversity

  • Posted on June 11, 2012 at 8:00 AM

One of the common threads in discussing autism, Asperger’s and associated neurological differences is the challenge of discrimination and the lack of opportunity.  One of the threads that seems less common, if not entirely ignored, is the adversity of success.

With success brings the expectation—often overwhelming—to perform successfully.  This is emboldening when that performance is accessible, but it can be extremely disheartening when that success is out of reach.  As many of us know, ability is variable.  Some days we can do more than we can on most days.  Some days we can do less that we can on most days.  What we can do any given day, even a normal day, isn’t the same from day to day.  Add the stress to perform and that variability can increase exponentially.  Now this is, to a degree, true for everyone.  With autism, this variance is heightened and enunciated in a way that seems dramatic, even odd.  It makes the normal level of unpredictability seem predictable in comparison.

What makes this especially unfortunate is the days that we must perform are not always the days that we can perform.  I see this in my children and in myself.  These are the days when our successes come back to bite us.  We are expected to do, so we try, but we can’t and the frustration mounts, making it even harder to do and even harder to explain why we can’t, because everyone already knows we can or, rather, that we could without seeing the difference between the two.

How do you deal with success?  How do your children deal with success?  Do you give yourself or your children permission not to succeed even when you know, on another day, at another time you or your children could do what they can’t do at the moment?  It’s hard to do so, but it’s necessary.  Some days we can.  Some days we can’t.  Even when we usually can, there are still some days when we simply can’t, try as we might, as much as we want to, it’s just simply inevitably and unalterably out of reach.

Executive Functioning in High-Functioning Autism

  • Posted on December 21, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Gavin recently wrote about executive functioning. After reading his post, I couldn’t help but think that much of the focus on executive functioning is in relation to high-functioning (or low-visibility) autistics. Parents of low-functioning (or high-visibility) autistics tend to dismiss or downplay the disabling aspects of autism among those with high-functioning or low-visibility autism; sometimes, it’s these individuals themselves who insist autism isn’t a disability at all. Partly in reaction to this, high-functioning or low-visibility autistics tend to focus on the disabling aspects of executive functioning differences. So, in reaction to Gavin’s post and the greater dialogue, I wanted to take a moment to consider executive functioning as it manifests in my household of three boys with autism who are at very different functioning levels. Due to the length of the original post, this will be a two-parter.

I’m going to start with Willy. For those who aren’t regular readers, here’s a brief recap: When Willy was first diagnosed he displayed classic regressive symptoms of autism, meaning that he developed more-or-less normally and then lost many functioning abilities, including the ability to communicate effectively. In retrospect, there were warning signs regarding his development prior to this regression, but as we were not familiar with autism and autism awareness had not progressed to its current levels, these warning signs were delegated to the “wait and see” category of concerns. When Willy started to regress, these concerns took on new meaning and the search for an explanation began. Willy’s resulting diagnosis is autism. At the time of his diagnosis, his autism was considered severe and institutionalization was recommended. Willy turns thirteen today, so this wasn’t all that long ago. With the help of several therapies, and due to Willy’s own development (which is beyond our control, obviously), Willy has regained the skills he lost. He is now considered fairly high-functioning, but a great deal of his functioning ability is due to the adaptations and accommodations we’ve been able to make for him.

On the surface of things, Willy appears very high-functioning. He talks, attends classes with his peers, pursues multiple interests, uses his imagination, and tells stories. He has friends. He’s well-liked in school. On the surface of things, executive functioning skills seem to be his biggest weakness. Getting through his day requires quite a bit of coaching in regards to scheduling his day and scheduling the different steps in each task. Getting his homework done is a hard-won achievement, which heavily relies on a physical schedule of assignments and a “learning lab” which is kind of like study hall, except with extra help. On the surface of things, all the work we put into building and maintaining his executive functioning skills helps us compensate for his disability to the point that his disability often seems invisible to us.

But that’s only the surface of things. As high-functioning as Willy is, when you put him next to his typically developing peers, especially those at different age levels, you can see delays in reasoning skills development, social skills development, and language skills development; and, we’re back to the pervasive developmental disorder. In time, Willy’s reasoning, social and language skills might catch up. They might. But there will always be differences in these areas. Willy will always think, socialize, and speak/write differently. Executive functioning is a bit tricky. It seems less emphasis is put on developing executive functioning skills, i.e. translating these skills into a do-it-yourself set of abilities that Willy can understand, and more emphasis is put on providing him with coping mechanisms, support, and resources to compensate for this disability.

There are two basic take-away lessons in this:

1) Willy’s “invisible” disability becomes quite visible if you compare him to his typically developing peers. The invisibility is most apparent when comparing him to his brothers, who have fewer functioning skills. Furthermore, his “invisible” disability becomes very visible if you take away the supports and accommodations that make this level of functioning possible for him. Thus, it would be ridiculous to claim that Willy isn’t disabled simply because Alex and Ben are more disabled.

2) How we approach executive functioning seems to assume that it is an ability (or disability) and not a set of skills that can be developed and internalized, with appropriate adjustments. The general approach seems to be one of accommodation and support; whereas, the approach to Willy’s language and social development seems to be one of skill development and support. I’d be interested to know how wide-spread this assumption is and why it is made.

Are executive functioning differences a matter of life-long disability? Or is it that we have yet to discover and apply in the general autistic population the proper approach(es) to building skills and providing support until those skills are self-sustaining?